Friday, April 3, 2009
I am realizing more and more that learning to communicate better with my horses is changing the way that I react to people. Just because Silk and Siete can’t talk back doesn’t mean that they don’t have strong opinions of their own. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Ray Hunt’s belief that you can’t force anyone, two or four-legged, to learn something without also causing there to be resentment. Good teaching is setting things up so the student has that “a-ha!” moment on their own.
I see how my attempts at making Siete or my 13-year old daughter pay attention by insisting that they do it my way causes them to rear up and stubbornly dig in their heels. Giving them a choice, with one alternative that is obviously going to be more pleasant for the “student” always seems to help them remember my “lesson” better the next time.
One of my first attempts at applying my horse training experience to dealing with people came years ago when I had a difficult boss with a big ego and red hot temper. I thought about how circling a horse around and around can result in the horse finally coming to the conclusion that going my way is a better response than getting bored and dizzy. So, I used to circle around the same subject with my boss, patiently letting him get out all his aggression and blustering until he was so ready to be done with it and move on that he would let me do it the way I was suggesting just so we would stop talking about it.
When Siete or Silk are in some kind of pain, they get very soft and affectionate with me while I take care of them. As soon as they feel healthy and are bored, their energy rises and they try to assert themselves. The other day, I noticed that my 94-year old mother was behaving the same way that Siete was. I thought about what I do with my little horse when she gets edgy. I give her more exercise. So, I bundled Mom up and took her to the store with me, walking her up and down the aisles to give her something to do and to distract her.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the past couple of years of interacting throughout every day with my horses is that things don’t always have to go my way and that calmness and patience are my most effective training tools. Just as horses remember when humans hurt them, they also remember when someone is kind. There are times when Silk and Siete don’t want to do what I’m asking them to do, but if I step away and give them a break, I am usually pleased to find when I come back and ask them again that they accept my leadership. In the end, with people or horses, it’s all about mutual respect, isn’t it?